It takes years and years of training for any athlete to reach the Olympics. For some it takes them a long time to make it past the Olympic trials to reach the main event, but for others it doesn’t take very long (comparatively speaking). And then there are just some sports that are made for younger athletes, and one of those sports is figure skating. Particularly when it comes to the women, it is more common to be on the younger late-teen early-twenties side, as opposed to in your mid-twenties. But surprisingly, the U.S. women’s figure skating Olympic team’s ages range pretty wide across the board.
Figure skating is like the gymnastics of the Winter Olympics — it’s one of the most artistic of the events throughout the games, glitzy outfits are often involved, and the women that compete are often very young. You can find men competing in figure skating are also relatively young, but you will usually find a much wider age range with them as opposed to the women.
It’s truly amazing how much talent and effortless grace these athletes have at such a young age. But compared to last year’s ladies, the group that Team USA has assembled for the 2018 games is PeyongChang is a bit more mature. At the 2016 Sochi Winter Olympics, the ladies that made up the women’s figure skating ranged from ages 15 to 22, and the average age of those skaters was 18.33. The average age for this year’s women is 20.66 — just about two and a half years older than the previous group. But the trio that make up the 2018 ladies singles’ contenders are as stellar of a group as ever.
The youngest member representing the U.S. in the women’s individual skating competition is Karen Chen. The 18-year-old hails from Freemont, California and is making her Olympic debut at these games. Most recently she finished in fourth place at the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships, which is pretty impressive considering it was her first time competing at the event. But considering that she has world-famous figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi as her mentor, it’s no surprise that Chen has been this successful at such a young age.
The second-youngest member of the ladies‘ team is Bradie Tennell from Carpentersville, Illinois. Tennell recently celebrated her 20th birthday on Jan. 31 this year and is the so-called underdog in this group. But the skater stunned audiences and judges after winning the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which is what earned her a spot at this year’s Olympics. And she definitely deserves to be there, especially after Tennell delivered a near-flawless performance during the team competition, which helped earn Team USA ultimately win the bronze medal in this event.
But perhaps the most impressive of the three ladies competing in Pyeongchang is Mirai Nagasu, the 24-year-old from Aracdia, California. Nagasu didn’t make the cut back in 2014 when it came time to assemble the Olympic team that would travel to Sochi, Russia. The decision to leave Nagasu out in 2014 was a bit of a shock, considering that she placed third at the national championships that year and the skater chosen to attend Sochi over Nagasu (Ashley Wagner) placed fourth. So this chance to skate for a medal in PyeongChang is her big chance to shine and get the redemption she deserves.
Nagasu might have already gotten the redemption that I’m sure she’s hungry for. During the team competition in the ladies free skate portion, Nagasu landed a triple axel — the hardest jump for a female figure skater to land. She is only one of three women to ever land the move at the Olympics, and the first American woman to do so. So she’s literally made history already, and the individual program hasn’t even begun yet.
All three of these ladies worked tirelessly and trained their entire lives just to get to these games and have this moment to shine. Figure skating is personally one of my favorite winter Olympic sports and I cannot wait to watch these ladies skate their hearts out on the ice in the coming weeks. Nagasu, Chen, and Tennell are slated to compete on the individual level on Feb. 21 and 23, so you know my eyes will be glued to the TV when these ladies get out and perform.